Caution Still Plays to the Majority… For Now
Neither the more serious growing unease at who is responsible for the scale of virus impact on nursing homes, nor the less serious finger pointing about picnics in the park, appear to have dented the publics resolve to support government as yet.
While other countries have begun to see a waning of the “Rally Round the Flag” effect. Here Fine Gael continues to be very strongly supported by at least a third of the country, and has gained significantly on the back of their handling of the crisis, versus where they were before the crisis began.
There is obviously still huge concern about the virus among the public, and erring on the side of caution, while it may split the public somewhat, is still playing to the great majority at present. A large proportion (77%) of Irish population remain very concerned about second peak of the virus. So clearly, people are still going to be careful about the way they do things and appreciate the cautious attitude to re-opening.
This of course will not please the loud minority, calling for less cautious and quicker lifting of restrictions. Certainly there are signs of a split in the public, between those who perhaps are keener for things to move more quickly, and those who are content and happy to follow the program for lifting of restrictions that the government and health services have set out.
Just under a third (31%) of all adults lean towards seeing the lifting of restrictions happen more quickly, but this group are less certain of their opinion, than the rest (66%) who are happy to see things continue as the government has set out.
This growing split in opinion among the public is also found when we look at the governments wage subsidy and unemployment benefits supports. Here we see a relatively even proportion of those who believe that the time has come to wind down these supports as people return to work, vs. those who believe, as Sinn Féin has advocated, that they should be kept in place until the end of the year.
It is interesting to note that Sinn Féin supporters view on this are not actually that different from the rest of the electorate, even though this is a platform that the party has been pushing. In fact, those who are most likely to support keeping wage subsidy in place, are those who currently support the Green Party.
Finally, we also see something of a split amongst the public on attitudes towards the COVID-19 tracing app, where about a third of the population suggest that they wouldn’t download and use an HSE COVID-19 tracing app. Those less prepared to download the app are those who are traditionally perhaps more suspicious of the establishment, both those living in lower socioeconomic areas and those who lean towards supporting Sinn Féin.
However only around a third of the population say that they will definitely download it. The issue for Fine Gael in this figure, is both a from a health and voter attitude perspective. Trying to push an app that many appear to be concerned about downloading, even if they believe it would be help to keep the virus at bay, may start to eat away at the positive support they have now and of course the less people that download it the less effective it is.
Our internal consumer tracking for clients is showing that the lifting of restrictions in phase one is giving a glimmer of normality to consumers, that they are grasping where possible. A lot of people are still generally abiding by the restrictions laid out by the government, but where they can they are starting to return to normal, and some are now pushing the boundaries. Another signal of a growing spit between those who are more cautious and those who are more frustrated with the restrictions.
This materialises with small transgressions – perhaps travelling outside their 5km limit, letting their children play in small groups, or spending an evening with friends in the garden rather than an hour – all minor infringements, but also signs of a weakening resolve.
These changes in behaviour and growing splits in attitude, are early warning sign to the government that opinions could turn quickly, if restrictions remain for too long or seem at odds with the levels of infection and deaths.
For now, the government is managing the process well, and meeting the demands and concerns of the majority, but there are plenty of hurdles ahead in the coming weeks where goodwill can be lost. In time, the loud minority voice may begin to have an effect, and Fine Gael will need to keep closely in touch with opinion, if they are to come out of the crisis anywhere near as strong as they are now.
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